Operation ARGUS, Report of Chief, AFSWP to ARPA
This theory proposed that a radiation belt is created in the upper regions of the Earth's atmosphere by high-altitude detonations. The radiation belt affects radio and radar transmissions, damages or destroys the arming and fuzing mechanisms of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warheads, and endangers crews of orbiting space vehicles that might enter the belt.
The tests, conducted in complete secrecy, were not announced until the following year. Low-yield devices were carried to an altitude of approximately 300 miles by rockets before being detonated.
More than 4,500 military personnel and civilian scientists participated in the test operation.
The tests comprising 1958 Operation ARGUS were as follows:
ARGUS I, August 27, South 38.5 degrees, West 11.5 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
ARGUS II, August 30, South 49.5 degrees, West 8.2 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
ARGUS III, September 6, South 48.5 degrees, West 9.7 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
ARGUS was the most secret nuclear weapon test operation of any attempted by the United States. Its purpose involving such great secrecy was testing low yield, high altitude nuclear weapons detonations while not tipping off the Soviets to the special objectives of the experiment.
The purpose of this documentary film was to report the results of nuclear weapons detonations experiments applied under an overall joint task force operation codenamed Operation ARGUS. Carefully screened members of only applicable committee members of Congress saw this film report, as well as need-to-know employees of the Department of Defense and appropriate executives of the White House.
Periods of silence during this film were strictly intended. This film was carefully sanitized by nuclear weapons experts and Department of Defense officials to remove secret information.
Observers of this film cannot reasonably demand more in quality for this film, and the public is fortunate just to be able to see these films. This film release was not designed to present this film without flaws due to aging and the notorious instability of its original Kodachrome I color film stock. This secret film has been sanitized, with secret portions removed, after the complete version was locked away for decades in top secret vaults, where the unsanitized version remains to this day. The celluloid version of these films are increasingly brittle and very few people have security clearances to view the unedited versions that contain jealously guarded secrets to this day.
The pale, yellow banding was caused by a persistent technical error of the Department of Energy in transcribing from the sanitized Betacam SP master copy's colorspace to VHS format.
The blurriness of Kodachrome I films was attributed to the immense grain of very slow 16 mm ISO 10 color film, as well as the bleeding of dyes in the celluloid. These films were so slow that night scenes had to be simulated using blue filters in daylight. Blue dyes were the least sensitive to light in this stock, and therefore simulated darkness using blue filters. Notice in 1950s cowboy films that night scenes contained long shadows and bright highlights from sunshine, due to this technique of low light simulation required by Kodachrome I.
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